Jace's Law

From left to right: Lisa, Jace and Chip Norman

When Little Elm councilwoman Lisa Norman was told that her adopted son, Jace, could not be admitted into a public pre-kindergarten class on a legal technicality, she was told to bring the issue to the Texas Legislature.

And with the help of State Rep. Jared Patterson, that’s just what she and her husband, Chip, did.

The result was the Patterson-sponsored H.B. 725, otherwise known as “Jace’s Law.” Signed by Gov. Greg Abbott on June 4 following its unanimous passage in the Texas Legislature, the bill adds a provision to the Texas Education Code allowing children from the foster care system of another state to be admitted to a public pre-K program so long as they currently reside in Texas.

The impetus of the bill’s creation stemmed from Lisa and Chip’s inability to get Jace into pre-K courses due to the fact that he was originally in the care of a Louisiana foster home before the Normans were allowed visitation in August 2018. Lisa and Chip contend this happened because the law did not expressly allow children who were in another state’s foster care system to be eligible for pre-K enrollment, even if they were current Texas residents.

“The original law allowing foster kids to attend pre-K was well-intentioned, but it just wasn’t as imaginative as it should have been to cover all cases,” Patterson said. “So we simply improved upon that idea and made it to where anyone from any foster care system – so long as they reside in the state of Texas – can attend pre-K.”

While the Normans say the passage of this bill was a victory for the cause of fostering and adopting, it passed at a time in which Jace, now a kindergarten student, was no longer eligible to benefit from it.

“[Jace] should have been able to go to preschool last year, the year we were put through this bill,” Lisa said. “He’s doing well, but I can see where pre-K for him would have much helped him in kind of giving him a leg-up going into kindergarten.”

Still, the Normans say they take comfort in knowing that future children encountering similar hurdles will be given the opportunity they tried to secure for Jace.

“If Lisa wouldn’t have gone and done what she did, [lawmakers] wouldn’t have known that loophole was there,” Chip said. “We were able to help people see a challenge that was there and get through it [and] make it better for children in the future that need that help.”

The law was recognized by Little Elm Mayor Curtis J. Cornelious in a Nov. 16 proclamation issued in proximity with National Adoption Month, which is observed throughout November.

Despite his presence at the Little Elm Town Council meeting, Lisa said Jace – whose adoption was finalized on Oct. 21, 2019 – does not even know about the bill or the fact that it is named after him.

“As he gets older, he’ll understand,” she said.

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